my older sister’s acne made me super jealous when i was little. i wanted my own to pick at. it seemed so satisfying. all of the sudden, i started breaking out when i was about 30, and it was irritating as fuck (though also satisfying). i got on birth control to regulate my hormones and tried three or four different types of oral contraceptives over the course of a year. i’d never been on birth control before and each one made me crazier than the last: muscle twitches on my legs and face, drowning in outrageous night sweats, charlie horses that could cripple a bitch, and brain loopies. like serious brain loopies. i couldn’t remember anything (worse than usual), i felt like a ditz (slow to process and indifferent), and my math was deplorable (it’s already shamefully bad). i gave up on the whole thing; besides, my course of pills seemed to trigger something because my face cleared up anyway.
i thought a lot about why i reacted so strongly to birth control when people i knew maybe gained some weight or something but seemed fine. my thinking is they started taking the pill when they were adolescents; being hopped up on age appropriate hormones, they likely couldn’t tell the difference. then in time perhaps bodies adjusted and it was no big deal eventually. or maybe they felt and were treated like crazy ladies and no one realized why because no one ever talks about it, or the way it’s talked about is hyper controlled. like sex in the victorian era, if you believe foucalt.
a few months ago, i skipped a period. when i got my period again, it gushed like a geyser and wouldn’t stop. the doctor probed, tested, and prescribed; there was just nothing doing. the internet told me i was not alone. there were women out there in their 30s who started bleeding and never stopped. maybe those of us afflicted with eternal bleeding haven’t birthed a babe or didn’t get jacked on anti-baby pills when we were little or maybe we have fibroids. it’s not really discussed.
most of the women i know have had fibroids: non-cancerous tumors or masses of tissue all wadded up in and around the uterus. you bleed; you have to pee all the time; your tummy gets engorged and bloaty. my friend had three; my mom had one so big it made her middle hard and round like a wheel barrel. turns out she had it for years and just ignored it until she saw a commercial and all of her symptoms matched. it seems odd we have to learn about a common medical condition via pharmaceutical commercials, and yet our uteruses are the subject of so much conversation. it seems our lady bits are only subjugated to a very particular manner of discourse with a specific purpose in mind.
just like motherhood: spoken about all the time solely to maintain the dominant paradigm. cis women are aggressively defined and controlled by a motherhood articulated through whiteness and misogyny. it is all sweetness, grace, and individual sacrifice. narrated as a lovely and appreciative tale of a princess femininity, pregnancy, birth, and an ever after, all-encompassing infatuation; yet it is so much more complex, wrenching, and nuanced. the truth of cis women who don’t want to reproduce, hate being pregnant, hate giving birth, and hate their babies, are incinerated. those of us who look at our children and don’t want to give up our entire selves for them are obviously witches. if our choice or circumstance creates a community to share our communal burden of reproduction, we are branded lazy whores. all the horrors of walking on the razor sharp edge of parenthood are silenced or we are simply blamed for making them up. they talk about it all the time, and never say a god damn thing.
one of my aunts had at least three miscarriages; my mom had at least two; my sister has had three. each of us knows to hide it for a couple of months, which appears to be a way of placating the rest so it won’t get awkward because baby death is weird. each woman finds herself in complete shock when it happens. it is not a part of our health education, it is not ingrained in our psyche of possibility, and we do not know how to grieve it. “it happens and be quiet,” because it’s kind of your fault anyway.
pop movies told me from a young age that testicles could be different sizes, but i never saw a pair until my late teens. i was never told that breasts could be different sizes, yet i was seeing them in movies since betamax. orgasms happen to all genders in the same cis male way, or so the story goes. so when your happy ending is different or nonexistent, your reality spins a yarn of wrongness. we are left confused, shamed, and isolated because in the normative legend only our bodies exist not our truth. we are characters in a myth; any authorship and protagonism is villainous. and anyway, it’s almost impossible to hear over all the white noise.